By Sarah Kautz, Preservation Director, Preservation Long Island.
When the Meadow Brook Bank (aka the First National Bank) was constructed in 1929, it was the tallest building on Long Island east of Jamaica. Reminiscent of an Art Deco version of the Flatiron building, the Meadow Brook Bank features a distinctive façade with Mayan-style reliefs and a lobby finished in Caen marble and bronze. The bank went on to achieve its envisioned role in promoting commercial development, yet the building’s even bolder vision for property development in Freeport was never quite realized. Perhaps, with the sale of the property in March 2017 to the DiNoto Group, a Huntington-based real estate investment company, this visionary building will, at last, take its place as the distinguished centerpiece of a dynamic setting.
According to Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, the DiNoto Group is considering a mixed-use building at the site with retail space and 250 rental apartments for seniors. The DiNoto Group has yet to confirm whether the Meadow Brook Bank will be demolished, or if its revitalization will play a role in the redevelopment plan.
Demolition would result in a truly regrettable loss, especially since the building’s renowned architects, the Hoggson Brothers, specifically designed the Art Deco style bank to adapt to a denser built environment. Indeed, the Meadow Brook Bank was always meant to evolve with its growing community. The building’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, moreover, offers a clear financial incentive for reuse through rehabilitation tax credits as well as other funding opportunities from New York State via the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.
What might a revitalized Meadow Brook Bank look like? Perhaps the bank’s potential is suggested by its resemblance to Manhattan’s iconic Flatiron building. Like the Flatiron, the Meadow Brook Bank could serve as the focal point of a successful revitalization of its surrounding community. The bank’s architectural vision is ready and waiting to be rediscovered as redevelopment plans for the site move forward. Hopefully, the new owners will embrace the Meadow Brook Bank’s long-neglected value as “Freeport’s Flatiron“, a great untapped historic and architectural resource on Long Island.